The Wounded Healer
September 15, 2021
Henri Nouwen writes in The Wounded Healer, "Many people suffer because of the false supposition on which they have based their lives. That supposition is that there should be no fear or loneliness, no confusion or doubt."
Isn't this true, perhaps especially so for people of faith? Aren't we told that "perfect love casts out fear," and commanded not to doubt?
When starting out in faith, it's easy to think of faith as a kind of magical amulet that will keep fear, loneliness, confusion, and doubt at bay. Many people continue to pray as though faith were a good luck charm that will increase God's favor in their lives. So, when fear or loneliness creep in, they blame themselves, thinking that what's keeping them from enjoying a happily-ever-after fairy tale ending to their lives is their own lack of faith.
But it's difficult to reconcile such notions with lived reality, orthodox theology, and the lives of the saints who have walked before us. We need not further burden our suffering with false suppositions and expectations.
To be human is to suffer. Or as the scriptures teach, all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. As mortals, we are broken. The good news isn't that we can become perfect now if we try hard enough, nor that we will be bubble-wrapped and kept from any discomfort or hurt. The good news is that we are broken, but we are also greatly loved.
And because we are loved, we can live with the fear, loneliness, confusion, and doubt. They need not overwhelm us. And not only that, against the adage, "hurt people hurt people," Nouwen insists that our fears, loneliness, confusion, and doubt do not disqualify us from being agents of healing. Just the opposite. We are all called to the ministry as wounded healers.
Author: Pastor David Choi